As new immigration perks for Chinese tourists take effect, travel abroad becomes easier. Experts foresee a prosperous outlook for both local and global tourism.

Decked with panda mascots, tour guide Wang Xiaomei leads a group of 20 tourists from Chengdu, China, to Pattaya, a popular beach resort in Thailand.

Wang, with 15 years of experience at China Youth Travel Agency, notes a surge in tourists since March. What used to be two six-day tours to Thailand per month has now expanded to five, keeping her schedule packed.

During China’s three-day National Day holiday, Singapore’s iconic Merlion statue echoed with various Chinese dialects. Visa-free travel to Singapore led to long queues at Universal Studios and its gardens.

Singapore Tourism Board (STB) data reveals that flights between China and Singapore have rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels. During the Qingming Festival, flight bookings between mainland China and Singapore soared by 50% compared to 2019, with a 15% increase in ticket prices, according to leading travel data processor Flight Master.

Fiona Ma, the holiday director at EU Holidays, anticipates Singapore becoming a hotspot for short-term family vacations during the May Day holiday.

Pan Lei from Tanzania’s first Chinese tourism company, Fashion Travel, tells Xinhua News Agency that even with a 12-hour direct flight from mainland China, Chinese tourists to Tanzania have significantly increased.

“Tanzania boasts abundant wildlife resources, including the Serengeti Plain, home to the Great Migration, and landmarks like Mount Kilimanjaro and the Indian Ocean gem, Zanzibar,” he says.

Director of Tanzania Tourist Board, Damas Mfugale, reports a 32.4% increase in Chinese tourists, from 33,541 in 2019 to 44,438 in 2023. “Tanzania has a rich culture, attracting our Chinese friends,” he says.

Visa Facilitation

STB data shows a staggering eightfold increase in Chinese tourist arrivals to Singapore since the 30-day visa waiver agreement took effect on February 9.

“The visa waiver between China and Singapore is great news for tourism,” says Alvin Tan, Minister of Trade and Industry in Singapore.

Apart from Singapore, Antigua and Barbuda and Thailand have also signed visa waiver agreements with China. Currently, 23 countries have comprehensive visa waiver agreements with China, allowing a typical 30-day visa-free stay for Chinese passport holders.

“The experience of traveling to Thailand has been excellent, feeling the warm hospitality of the Thai people and experiencing the convenience of visa-free travel,” says Zhang Bingbing from Guangdong, China, who recently visited Thailand with six friends.

Zhang notes saving over 2,000 Thai baht ($55) in visa fees, with a smooth entry process.

Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports reports receiving 1.75 million Chinese tourists in the first three months of the year, making China its largest source of tourists.

Singapore Tourism Board projects continued recovery in the tourism market in 2024, driven by improved global flight connectivity and the visa waiver agreement between China and Singapore.

In Tanzania, Pan notes the opening of over 20 new Chinese restaurants and more than 10 bed-and-breakfasts and resorts funded by Chinese investments since last year. A Chinese company launched a tented camp in the Serengeti, serving authentic Chinese cuisine.

This visa-free facilitation will undoubtedly bring more opportunities for mutual cooperation in tourism, trade, and other fields between China and foreign countries.

Pan anticipates increased tourism cooperation between the two countries, citing plans for a Chinese football club to train in Tanzania and filmmakers preparing to showcase their work at the Zanzibar International Film Festival. Additionally, a Chinese tourism group has established the China-East Africa Tourism Alliance, headquartered in Tanzania.